Investigators in Oklahoma exhume 2 bodies in 1995 cold case

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) — Investigators in rural Pittsburg County in southeastern Oklahoma have exhumed the bodies of two people found dead more than 20 years ago in hopes that DNA testing will identify the pair.

The McAlester News-Capital reports that a man riding a four-wheeler discovered the bodies of a man and a woman on April 9, 1995. Both had gunshot wounds, and investigators said they believed the two were killed and dumped by travelers who were on nearby U.S. 69.

A nationwide bulletin was issued at the time but the pair was never identified.

Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris says he hopes modern technology will lead to a break in the case.

The bodies were exhumed Tuesday after a judge granted a petition in December 2018 allowing it to go forward.

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Oklahoma judge rejects dismissal requests in opioid lawsuit

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — A judge has ruled that Oklahoma's multibillion dollar lawsuit against opioid producers will proceed.

Pharmaceutical companies had argued that the state tried to misuse public nuisance laws. Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman on Monday rejected that claim, The Oklahoman reported.

"Last week, we heard more arguments and excuses by the defendants as to why this case should not be heard," said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter. "The Oklahoma Supreme Court and now, on multiple occasions, Judge Balkman, has said this case should proceed to trial. These rulings were made based on the rule of law and the merits of our case."

The maker of OxyContin and the company's controlling family agreed in March to pay Oklahoma a groundbreaking $270 million to settle allegations that they helped create the nation's deadly opioid crisis with aggressive marketing.

The settlement resulted in bipartisan criticism from state lawmakers who said Hunter overstepped his authority in allocation of funds.

Hunter subsequently dropped some claims in the state's lawsuit against other drugmakers in an effort to recover the cost of opioid abuse.

Estimations executed at the request of the state show Oklahoma's damages to be in the "tens of billions of dollars," Hunter said.

Drug companies argue it is unfair to try to hold opioid manufacturers financially accountable for the opioid epidemic, contending that street drugs distributed by international drug cartels, doctors who overprescribe and the state's failure to enforce its own drug statutes have contributed to the issue.

The trial is drawing global attention since it has the earliest planned trial date of hundreds of lawsuits filed by cities, counties, Native American tribes and other entities that are trying to recuperate billions of dollars in damages from manufacturers that are part of the opioid supply chain. Around 1,600 of those cases reportedly have been combined in a multidistrict federal case in Ohio. Oklahoma is one of about three dozen states that have filed lawsuits in state courts aiming to have local juries or judges decide the outcome.

The bench trial is slated to begin May 28.

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Police: Video shows Oklahoma man moving wife's body from Texas hotel

PHOENIX (AP) — A husband arrested in Arizona on suspicion of concealing his wife's dead body was seen earlier on security video moving a woman's naked body to his vehicle outside a Texas hotel, police said Tuesday.

Previous footage showed the couple from Sand Springs, Oklahoma, walking into their room at the El Paso hotel on Sunday evening.

The next morning, 70-year-old Rodney Puckett is seen using a luggage cart to move the body of 74-year-old Linda Puckett, said Sgt. Kristie Barnette, a police spokeswoman in Eloy, where Rodney Puckett was later arrested.

Puckett told investigators he found his wife unresponsive on Monday and put her body in their vehicle before continuing an unplanned trip to California.

The cause of death hasn't been determined, but Barnette noted that Linda Puckett had signs of blunt-force trauma on her body. It's unclear why Rodney Puckett moved the body, she said.

It's not known whether he has an attorney who could comment.

Authorities in Arizona were alerted about Puckett after a drive-thru worker at a restaurant in Eloy, 64 miles (103 kilometers) southeast of downtown Phoenix, reported seeing a naked woman inside Puckett's vehicle.

A detective responded and found Linda Puckett's body in the front seat, with her head on the floorboard and her feet near the headrest. Rodney Puckett was wearing only underwear.

El Paso police spokesman Sgt. Enrique Carrillo said authorities there didn't receive any earlier reports of suspicious activity involving the couple. He declined to comment further.

The couple was undergoing a divorce to end their nearly eight-year marriage and had filed restraining orders against each other earlier this year in Oklahoma, court records state. A lawyer representing Linda Puckett in the divorce said in the documents that she and her husband were incompatible.

Jonathan Sutton, an attorney in Tulsa who represented Rodney Puckett in the divorce, declined to comment about the arrest in Arizona. Joseph Harris, who represented Linda Puckett in the divorce, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

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Authorities ID hiker killed in Appalachian Trail attack

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Federal authorities have released the identity of a hiker who was stabbed to death in an attack on the Appalachian Trail in southwestern Virginia.

The FBI and U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen said 43-year-old Ronald S. Sanchez Jr. of Oklahoma died of injuries he received Saturday.

James Jordan of West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, has been charged with murder and assault with intent to murder for allegedly attacking Sanchez and a female hiker.

Authorities said Jordan had repeatedly threatened four hikers before chasing them with a knife. Two managed to escape.

Authorities have not identified the wounded female hiker, who remains hospitalized.

Hikers had complained to authorities in southwestern Virginia and in Tennessee in recent weeks about Jordan allegedly threatening them.

A federal judge has ordered Jordan to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

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5 workers hurt in fire and explosion at Oklahoma paper mill

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) — Officials say a fire and subsequent explosion at a Georgia-Pacific paper mill in eastern Oklahoma injured five workers and left two firefighters with heat exhaustion.

Muskogee County Emergency Medical Service operations director Ron Morris says four injured workers were taken to a hospital with smoke inhalation and undisclosed "minor trauma." A fifth worker was treated at the scene.

Georgia-Pacific spokeswoman Karen Cole said two people were still hospitalized Tuesday in stable condition.

The fire and explosion that followed occurred shortly before 10 p.m. Monday at the Georgia-Pacific plant in Muskogee, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Tulsa.

Fire Chief Mike O'Dell said the fire began when a hydraulic line on a propane-fueled fork lift ruptured, spraying fluid that ignited on the propane tank. O'Dell said the two firefighters with exhaustion were treated at the scene.